Sunday, January 6, 2013

Palanan, Isabela : That Tragic Trip

Taken in Palanan airport, palanan, isabela

Arrived in Dau terminal at 9:30, and the only option to get to cabanatuan is the van that's taking forever to get passengers. I thought about taking a bus to La Paz, Tarlac - those going to Talugtog that arrived after 2 hours - 11:37am. By 12:26pm, i got off in the victory liner/five star/cisco bus stop in La Paz, where i'll be waiting for a baler bound bus.

It has been a while, and the bus vendors in the stop are saying only 3-4 baler buses ply this highway in a day; not quite like what the genesis staff in Dau said about the hourly trips. 

I also don't see any genesis bus bound for manila so I thought i'll have to take the vendors words. Thereby, i decided to head to  Cabanatuan, and take the baler buses from there.

The victory/5 star buses there want to charge P185 to cabanatuan, so, i took d jeep instead; it'll eat some time but what is P40 versus P185 to a budget traveller. It was 1:06pm when i hopped in the jeep and was already 2:29pm when i arrived in cabanatuan; Luckily, a genesis bus was ready to leave (though i hoped i had at least time to smoke).

At nearly 6pm, i arrived in Baler. The plan was to spend the night there, but since there are still Casiguran bound bus, I thought it would be better closer to Dilasag. The van left at around 7 pm.

A few minutes past 11pm, right in the Casiguran town, we were held by a fallen bridge. A lot of the buses are stucked up too. We had to wait until the arrival of a chartered tricycle to bring us to the town center.

It was almost 1am when we got to the town center. The whole town is asleep and there's nowhere to get a bed; I  slept wherever I can lay (in the terminal) feeling quite cold as the rain poured continously heavier.

It was still dark when I woke up. More and more passengers are arriving. As the rain consistently poured, we kept hearing reports of unpassable rivers ahead. One of the public utility jeep in the terminal went ahead empty to check, and indeed, vehicles can not handle the current.

At 11:30, we heard there's a jeep that has dropped passengers next to the river, and is due to go back to Dilasag. The stranded passengers in the terminal began packing things. We finally left the Casiguran terminal thru a tricycle that will bring us to the first (vehicle) unpassable (knee high) river. 

After successfully crossing the stream, we walk further onto the next river. This time, it was chest deep. I almost felt frightened about the current, especially i have to lift the weight of my baggae, but i crossed in no hassle.

There was a steady flock of passengers, and before everyone got boarded, one passenger noticed the flat tyre (yet another trademark only in casiguran experience). Most passengers walked ahead while waiting fr the tyres to be replaced.

First river crossing somewhere in Casiguran Town

The first river crossing "easy round"

Second river crossing; still in Casiguran Town "Difficult Round"

Add caption

some more challengers along the way in Dilasag; waist deep flood

Drop off point in Dilasag, Aurora: Brgy Masagana

Sure I enjoy toploads, but that ride was the most inconvenient and risky topload experience I had. I think only a fourth of my ass is accomodated by the jeep's rock solid carrier. If not for my reliable grip, i would have dropped off the cliffs.

At 1:11, we got off in brgy masagana where we'll take a trike to Aplaya; One of the stranded passengers I was with in casiguran is headed to Palanan, so i just moved with him from there... took lunch, did comfort breaks and shower, and then went ahead to the Aplaya.

As soon as I hopped in the boat, as expected, I was asked questions about my purpose in visiting Palanan, and if I know anyone in the town. In turn, I asked them questions too, and was overwhelmingly surprised to hear that they've been boarded in the boat since 22nd; ( And, yes, they spent christmas in the boat). They could not leave because of the situation in the waters. In fact, much of the vegetable cargo is rotting..

in "Mahogany", Dilasag, Aurora ; our Boat for Palanan, Isabela 
our Situation in side the boat for Palanan, Isabela

no leftover from our first fisherman meal

Anyhow, the weather seemed better, and everyone is itching to get home, even the boat personnel. In less than half an hour in Aplaya, the boat moved. I was told the boat has to dock somewhere in the sea as it is about to go low tide.

It was a whirlpool. The plan was actually to leave by 9pm, but the waves just wont let us do so. It kept raining and the wind is blowing hard. The captain said we'll have to postpone until 4 am (expected to arrive in that case by 12noon on favorable weather conditions). It has been 2D/2N commuting, of unprecented circumstances; we were afloat like a piece of trash for the next 12 hrs. The wind is blowing hard and the waves are raging.

When i woke up, We were moving. I checked the time and it was 20 minutes past 4. It seems we moved at exactly 4 o'clock indeed.

weather in the pacific

The waves were initially ok, so I went back to sleep; But, just two hours later, I was awaken by the aggression of the waters.

During weather interruptions, we get reports about possible wave heights. I used to wonder how 3m waves looked like, or if there really is such.  Never actually seen one. 

Suddenly, I wondered what sank Titanic. I also had a recall of moses' biblical story. And i recall the guy I was with in the trike from the fallen bridge to casiguran town; upon hearing that I'm heading to Palanan, he said he got to Palanan only once, and will never do it again.

The waves were just outrageous; ready to crack and swallow the boat. I had to say 'yes, it's the pacific'. The waves were lifting us at a height that's more scary than the look of the waves themselves.

The view of the Luzon border would have been picturesque had it been a sunny weather. 

When we got in Pulong Diablo, indeed we were like being stirred in a wash tub. I must say the captain was just really good in tackling the waves, and if only not that this is a bigger boat, I would have freaked in silence.

At 2:20, we were going to dock; I was told we've already gone past Palanan, and because of d current and height of the tide, we had to dock in Divilacan, and wait until the water settles. By now, its already been 3 days and 5 hours, and have yet to set foot in Palanan. The captain also received a report thru txt that the town is currently flooded.

Pulong Diablo

Bay in Divilacan, Isabela where we had to dock overnight; boat personnel went to the shore to refill some water
So far, the captain's directive is to park and move back to Palanan by 4am. Yet another 10 hours steady in the sea. By now, it is getting frustrating and I am almost loosing interest of getting around. It seems going away and back to the city is more important.

During the night, the skies have gone better. It has been clearer than the past few nights. Everybody in the boat was hopeful we'll move on very soon.

Then again, at the middle of the night, heavy rains poured along with strong winds. The momentum of the heavy rain as it drops the boat roofs woke us up one by one. I had to keep forcing myself back to sleep everytime.

Someone woke me up at nearly 6am. The captain has ordered the tarp covers from the front cabin (where i slept); the wind was blowing so hard, and it would fly them away, and perhaps, the boat too. We all had to move to the backside.

Just a little while later, we moved. And in just less than half an hour, a lot of the passeners were throwing up already. We're back on the outrageous waves; and it seems it is much more dangerous this time as we have to battle the wind. I thought it would have been better if we proceeded with an assault to Palanan the day before, as the wind is manageable then.

I must say this time the waves are probably about 20feet; yes, the height of a 2 storey house (no exaggerations).

Somehow we managed to move close to Palanan. Because of the tide though, the boat couldn't get to Sabang, so we had to be dropped in Dicotcotan beach in San Isidro. We had to transfer to the paddle boats to get to the shore.

From Dicotcotan beach, we walked all the way to Sabang. Crossed several deep streams and from there, took a motor boat that will bring us to the town proper through the river of mud flowing from the mountains, battling through boulders of raging logs .

Dicotcotan Beach in Barangay San Isidro, Palana, Isabela

The paddle boat that takes us to the shore; see our boat from afar

another river crossing in Palanan, Isabela; 

The port in Palanan town proper

First thing i did when i got to the town proper was get some meal. Dadn't eaten anything yet for the day (and only one meal for the day before).

After a meal, went straight to the police station to log. I'm not sure if it is the SOP but i felt like they were suspecting me of something; Gave them 2 ids so far (a school id and a driver's license) and were still asking for a company id. Told me i should be bringing it all the time (when my point is, what if i loose it? Aren't 2 ids enough?). Besides, even court cases use the "innocent til proven guilty" postulate, and that time it felt like "guilty til proven innocent". 

I have been so distressed by the events in the past 4 days, and there is just no space for any more hassle. Anyhow, they pointed me to Aling Mery who has transient accomodation.

As soon as i reached Nanay Mery's house, i cleaned up. Had a few storytelling minutes, and later, she told me I might as well book a flight right on if I plan to leave thru plane. I was too tired though so I waited til morning.

In the morning, the first thing I did was go to the booking office. From the booking office, I was told to proceed to the airport where I can find the dispatcher Polai.

Upon reaching the airport, there was just way too much passengers. I was told the last flight was way back 22nd because of the bad weather. I was wanting to get a booking but Polai wont give me any confirmation. She just kept saying try tomorrow. I got worried. From that point on, i spent my time running back and forth the airport.

This time, i wasnt even interested in seeing the closer blue lagoon; i just wanted to get out.

There were only 2 planes plying, one 3seater, and another 6seater (including pilot). 

non operating landbank in Palanan, Isabela

Emilio Aguinaldo shrine in Palanan, Isabela; said to be a marker of where Emilio Aguinaldo was caught during american colonization

Aling Mery's transient house in Palanan, Isabela

Palanan State University

Palanan Catholic Church

Cyclone airways aircraft on Repair

The passenger terminal (P10 passenger terminal fee by the way)

Palanan Coliseum

Carol singers even past christmas in Palanan, Isabela

a graffiti in the walls of the airport

I spent the next days smoking with my face up the clouds in the north, waiting for sunshine. Everytime the skies would clear, i'd run to the airport and hope there would be a flight.

After 4 days running around the town of Palanan, I was finally allocated a seat on the 3rd flight of January 2. I began texting my friends and family that I will be out in a few hours. I got so excited. Suddenly, just a few minutes before the arrival of the plane, I was told, because of my baggage, I have to be moved to the next flight. 

But at that time, I was more concerned about going out than carrying back my baggage with me. I told Polai I'll leave and wait for the arrival of my left baggage in Cauayan airport. I got on board! yay...

And, thanks to my instinct, as soon as we landed in cauayan, the pilot and repairman were talking. The plane is not working again.. 

Cyclone airways aircraft on repair again as soon as our arrival in Cauayan, Isabela

I spent the rest of the day around Santiago and Cauayan. I went back noontime of the following day; Luckily, my baggage is in the city. And since there's few more hours for the day, I took the time to head further to the town of Naguillan and took some pictures of the landscape.

a nice payback for all that occured; taken in Naguillian Bridge in Isabela

*fare fr dau to la paz (thru five star/cisco talugtug bus) is P50. From cabanatuan terminal to baler is 198 (student; remove 20% disc for non student/senior). From Baler to Casiguran is P200. From Casiguran to Dilasag, it should've been P20, but we were asked P50. Boat fare for Dilasag-Palanan is P500. From Sabang to Palanan Town, we were asked P100 each (5 in the boat), where, according to my co-passengers, on normal conditions, it should've been P50. Trike around Palanan is P10 (though everything in town is a walking distance). Airfare from Palanan to Cauayan was P1900 with free 5 kilos (When i went to claim my baggage in Cauayan, it seems to have been hiked to P2000, ..poor people of palanan! Tsk). Excess kilos is P25 each. I was also told there are flights to Tuguegarao (but where, at that time, to resume only 4th Jan).
*in dilasag, when water is rough, boats dock in river "Mahogany". The drop off point in Dilasag is Brgy Masagana, where trike fare to mahogany is P20. To aplaya, i.e. regular pier, is P25.

*Dinapigue to santiago is 350 on Samana Trans
*brgy libutarek is where the blue lagoon is

*Prices around town of Palanan are relatively the same as in the city (as opposed to what I heard that it is extremely expensive). There is a scarcity of vegetable though. All the time I was in Palanan, my meals were all pork. (Nilaga itself didn't even have a cabbage but just pork, water and pepper). Pork in fact is just P100/kilo.

*Polai (cyclone airways) may be reached through 09153527214.  Nanay Mery (transient house) at 09294911403. Rate is P200/head per night.


  1. You were so lucky you survived that boat ride. And 3 IDs?! Wow. And I thought 2 IDs are always enough anywhere.

    1. Was more concerned of my boredom in the boat really :-)

  2. OMG the experience you had was WORSE than what we've experienced in our Dalugan, Aurora travel experience during the Pedring Storm... I thought what we encountered was the worse ever (8 hours in a boat w/o any food/drinks/amenities - not even a chair nor a bench; raging waves; hippo-hippo; stuck in the sea due to the waves; travel time from 12AM-8AM, etcccc)

  3. wow. kung ako siguro namatay nako sa takot sa ganun kataas na alon.haha. and its like 2 weeks of kamalasan :-(

  4. After some thinking sir, i thought te experience was well worth it. I spent a lot for this trip, and gone nowhere, but i lost all fears of the sea after. Like i can literally now jump in the open sea

  5. ibarra_of@yahoo.comMarch 5, 2014 at 7:42 PM

    the experience itself is worth the trip, thanks for sharing.

  6. By far the worst and the best trip i've had

  7. congratulations,..
    Gusto ko ding makapunta dyan,. it's a extreme adventure,..
    aproximately,magkano nagastos nyo,.para alam naming pagipunan..,,

  8. around 12k ang nagastos ko for around 10days including 3other days in other towns of isabela. medyo mahal ang food dun, at accomodation is 250/day. so far, yun ang pinakamahal ko na trip, and wala ako napuntahan really, pero sobra sulit pa din para sakin.

  9. May I ask how much is the cyclone plane flight? AND OMYGASH YOLO SEA JOURNEY from Aurora. Ang tindi, apir!


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